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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Bike trails sought as tourist attraction

Trail design in progress

A&P Commission aims to bring tourist through bike trail project

A proposal to bring tourists to Mena through the creation of bike trails has resulted in a project by the Mena Advertising and Promotion Commission to develop a plan to design a trail system with Progressive Bike Trails.

Progressive is a design and construction company that specializes in sustainable bike park and trail development.  

Often, public agencies provide facilities for most sports, but mountain biking has often been overlooked. 

Rick Chrisman, AP Bike Trail Committee chair, said that by adding a bike trail system at Ward Lake, the previous municipal water source which is now dry, is a good use of city property while also creating a tourist attraction.

Jason Stouder, Planning and Design Director for Progressive, said the trails will bring a positive impact to the community both economically and physically.  

“Mountain bikers love to travel and have a sense of adventure, and typically have the means and ability to travel,” Stouder said. “They look for trail destinations such as Bentonville to spend their vacations.”

 One study showed bike tourism is a significant economic driver for the region, with visitors spending $27 million at local businesses last year. In the last 12 months alone, more than 90,000 mountain bike tourists visited Northwest Arkansas at a rate comparable to notable destinations like Oregon and British Columbia. 

“Trail destinations around the state are the exact reason why Mena should capitalize on investing in trails,” Stouder said. “Mena’s topography translates to a diverse array of potential trails which is a good formula for destination status. The idea is to create a destination that brings riders from TX, OK, LA and southern AR to Mena on their way to NWA or Central AR.  The goal is to create an experience that puts mountain bikers’ heads in beds, be it local hotels, Air BNB locations, campgrounds etc.  The more nights they spend in Mena the better.”

The goal is for the trails in Mena to appeal to riders of all levels and age groups.  

“The Ward Lake property is the first step to a much broader trail infrastructure potential in Mena, including USFS adjacent property, Greenway Trails, and Progressive Playgrounds (small bike parks that include a skills course, pumptrack, and gateway trails),” Stouder explained. 

“The broader range of trails is key for tourist and residents alike.  Tourism is a huge draw and reason for the trails.”

Stouder noted in addition to the economic benefits brought by tourists, area residents will also have health and recreation opportunities through the trail.

“The Ouachitas are absolutely beautiful and the drive into and around Mena is stunning, Stouder said. “Giving eco-tourists more reasons to come your way is key. Mena is a bit out of the way, and I think with the right trails Mena will become “The Way” to get to NWA.”

Chrisman, John Vacca and Kenny Davis met with Progressive recently to discuss their perspective and review project details.

Davis accompanied the Progressive team to Ward Lake for a perimeter hike of the property in order to orient them to the proximity of existing trails and understand the terrain.

Chrisman informed the AP commission at the December meeting that preliminary impressions are that three perimeter trails at different elevations and skill levels is a feasible solution to providing a variety of riding experiences and connections to the Earthquake Ridge Trail.

A final report will be provided to the AP Trails Advisory Committee no later than April.

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